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Experts see SAP UI5, cloud HCM, Hadoop as trends to watch in 2014

A panel of analysts and consultants outline what they see as key trends to watch in 2014, including those for cloud HCM, SAP UI5 and Hadoop.

With 2013 now in the books, asked a number of analysts and consultants what SAP trends they see coming in 2014. Here’s what they had to say, on everything from HCM cloud adoption, the proliferation of SAP UI5, and the coming explosion in Hadoop implementations.

Duncan Jones, principal analyst, Forrester Research Inc.

Duncan JonesDuncan Jones

Move toward greater licensing flexibility now in doubt: As SAP tries to grow its SaaS [Software as a Service] business, it needs to transform its culture to focus less on its own sales targets and more on making customers successful. Outgoing co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe understood this, which is partly why he brought in [former SuccessFactors CEO] Lars Dalgaard and [now former Ariba CEO] Bob Calderoni to help him drive the cultural transformation that SAP needs. Large parts of SAP are customer-centric, but too often the old-style sales targets push salespeople in the wrong direction.

A year ago I was optimistic that as part of its move to SaaS, SAP would change those incentives and introduce licensing flexibility, such as [allowing] customers to phase purchases in line with a multi-year rollout program and to stop paying for products they're not using. Both of those practices are common in the SaaS world. I'm concerned that the premature departures of these three key board members make this less likely to happen.

Chris Kernaghan, senior SAP technical architect, Capgemini

Chris KernaghanChris Kernaghan

Use of SAP UI5 spreads: I think we will see a lot of sensible development of [SAP UI5] point applications to help with specific pain points around systems administration. [SAP UI5 is a Javascript library for building mobile and desktop browser-based applications.] This will be mainly because [many] administrators have not fully configured SAP Solution Manager, because it still takes a significant amount of time to complete. This will have a downside as I suspect a proportion of these point development solutions will not scale enough to be production-ready despite being very cool proof-of-concept exercises. Hopefully these attempts will inspire developers and administrators to create interesting things with the new development frameworks.

Hadoop usage will explode once SAP begins supporting more distributions. I know support for Amazon MapReduce is something that a few of my customers are waiting on. Couple this with improvements to Smart Data Access and the whole concept of data storage for processing becomes much more interesting.

Cindy Jutras, president, Mint Jutras consulting

Cindy JutrasCindy Jutras

ERP systems become more manageable: In 2014, I think we are going to continue to see the convergence of some trends that have emerged over the past several years, brought together by a common goal of making enterprise applications easier to consume. While we’ve been talking about the limitations of monolithic ERP solutions for what seems like decades now, there has been remarkably little progress made in actual implementations. Even as vendors accelerate innovation, upgrades have been costly and disruptive, leaving many woefully behind in consuming enhancements to features, functions and technology. That is about to change.

More and more vendors are componentizing new features and functions and delivering them as "loosely coupled," allowing customers to keep existing solutions in place, while adding new functions and even replacing existing embedded features. Many of these new components will be offered in the cloud, which will also better facilitate accessing them from mobile devices. This will broaden the base of users engaged with these applications, and that broader base will extend to higher levels in the corporate structure. Expect executives to be more engaged and demand more from the data that has been sitting dormant and underutilized for years.

Luke Marson, principal consultant/director for cloud HCM technology, HRIZONS

Luke MarsonLuke Marson

Companies rip and replace on-premises core HR systems: On-premises core HRIS (human resource information systems) license sales began to decline last year and I see that continuing to be the case in 2014. Many of the on-premises core HRIS [systems] that customers are using are more than 20 years old and all of the major vendors are building out SaaS-based core HRIS functionality in the cloud.

The simple fact is that a 20-year-old core HRIS was designed for a completely different era of business and the world has come a long way in that time. Customers looking to get ahead really need to look toward the cloud as this is where the innovation is. SaaS-based core HRIS is going to take off considerably this year with SuccessFactors Employee Central and Workday leading the pack. Although hybrid has been much touted, I fully expect customers to look at ripping and replacing their on-premises core HRIS to save the integration nightmare and set themselves up for expanding into talent management, as the SaaS talent management vendors have been well ahead of the on-premises vendors for some time already. It's going to be a big year for the cloud and in particular core HR.

Ethan Jewett, owner of Coredatra BI software and consulting services

Ethan JewettEthan Jewett

Open Source UI5 matures: One of the big things that I push forward is [for more] developer engagement from SAP. We saw some great advancements in Bangalore. I hope they don't wait until [this time] next year to announce more advances. But in the next year, I really expect them to build on what they just announced in Bangalore. Some of the big things that I would expect them to flesh out is [details] around the open-source UI5 project [Open UI5 is the open-source version of the SAP UI5 library], so that in addition to just providing the library under an open-source license, [the company will] provide the source code, accept community contributions and provide regular releases of the current master branch they're working on.

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